According to the American Cancer Society, more than half a million Americans will die of cancer each year. That’s more than 1,500 people a day.
One in every four deaths in the U.S. is from cancer. About 1.4 million new cases are diagnosed every year. This estimate does not include diagnoses of in situ (pre-invasive) cancer (except for urinary bladder cancer) or the approximately one million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer that will be diagnosed this year.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that about 9.6 million Americans with a history of cancer are alive. Although some of these individuals are considered to be cured or cancer free, others continue to live with the disease and may be receiving treatment.
This week’s post concerns two recent articles on the benefits of nutrients for cancer. Both studies happen to be from the International Journal of Cancer. In the February edition, researchers out of the United Kingdom studied effects of lipid-soluble anti-oxidant vitamins in a group of men with various forms of prostatic disease1. The study included 20 men with benign enlargement of the prostate (called BPH), 40 with localized prostate cancer, 38 with metastatic prostate cancer and 14 healthy men. It was found that those with prostate cancer had lower circulating concentrations of lutein and beta carotene. Patients with cancer also had lower circulating concentrations of lycopene.
Men with prostate cancer also had higher concentrations of malondialdehyde, which is a marker for lipid peroxidation. C-reactive protein (an indicator of inflammation) was not correlated with either vitamin antioxidants or the lipid peroxidase marker. In contrast, however, there was a negative correlation between malondialdehyde concentations and both lutein and lycopene. Researchers concluded that the results indicated that lower concentrations of carotenoids, in particular lycopene, reflected disease progression rather than the systemic inflammatory response in patients with prostate cancer.
As discussed in prior blogs, the medical literature at the National Library of Medicine is replete with studies showing health benefits with increasing consumption of the nutrients lutein, lycopene and other carotenoids. These benefits also include promoting healthy vision and reduced risk of heart disease.
There is another study from the International Journal of Cancer that will be published in the April 1 edition2. It’s an interesting follow-up on the landmark selenium study published in JAMA in December 19963.
To reiterate that study, which went on for several years, 1312 individuals were randomized to receive either 200 mcg of selenomethionine, or placebo. It was found that those treated with selenium had a 37 percent reduction in cancer incidence across-the-board, with an amazing 50 percent reduction in cancer mortality. In the follow-up study in the International Journal of Cancer, it was noted that of the 1312 randomized patients, 598 participants underwent endoscopic screening sometime during the follow-up period, which ended February 1, 1996.
It was noted that current smokers were more likely to have colonic adenomas (which is a harbinger of colon cancer) than those who never smoked. When current smokers were analyzed separately, there was a 73 percent reduction in risk among individuals who supplemented with selenium compared to those receiving placebo.
Further, when participants were divided into thirds according to baseline plasma selenium status, those whose levels were in the lowest third, and who received selenium rather than placebo, also had a reduction in adenomas of 73 percent. Thus, it appears that two groups, both smokers and individuals with low selenium levels, noted an over 70 percent reduction in colon adenomas, which, if not discovered promptly, could lead to colon cancer.
I don’t understand my colleagues in medicine. So many physicians are loathe to recommend these safe and inexpensive nutrients noted above, yet they’ll so quickly prescribe something that hasn’t been tested in as many studies or for as long, such as a new drug or procedure that almost always has side effects and is quite expensive. As I’ve mentioned so many times in the past, a nationwide study is currently underway regarding prostate cancer, called the SELECT study (which stands for selenium and vitamin E cancer prevention trial).
Enrollment began in 2001 and ended in 2004. The SELECT study will continue for several more years. There are more than 400 sites in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada participating, and over 35,000 men are currently enrolled. Although I’m all for scientific studies, I feel the existing data is just too strong to consider risking tens of thousands of lives every year waiting for yet another study. For your information, in 2005 it was estimated that over 230,000 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed and over 30,000 men died from this disease. Approximately one out of six men in the U.S. will develop prostate cancer during his lifetime. We’re talking about potentially tens of thousands of men dying needlessly every year. Based on current published studies, selenium and lycopene, just to name two nutrients, may help significantly reduce the incidence of cancer and death.
In an upcoming post I discuss numerous lifestyle and dietary changes that may help dramatically reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease. I explain specific foods (such as fried foods) that contribute to diseases like cancer and heart disease, and foods (such as berries and fish oil) that may heal the body and could reduce your risk for disease. I also recommend you consume organic food to eliminate thousands of toxic chemicals from your diet.
- Ahmed S.K. Almushatat, Dinesh Talwar, Peter A. McArdle, Cathy Williamson, Naveed Sattar, Denis St. J O’Reilly, Mark A. Underwood, Donald C. McMillan. Vitamin antioxidants, lipid peroxidation and the systemic inflammatory response in patients with prostate cancer. Int J Cancer.Vol. 118, Issue 4 p 1051-1053.
- Mary E. Reid, Anna J. Duffield-Lillico, Annette Sunga, Marwan Fakih, David S. Alberts, James R. Marshall. Selenium supplementation and colorectal adenomas: An analysis of the nutritional prevention of cancer trial. Int J Cancer. Vol. 118, Issue 7 : p 1777-1781.
- Clark LC, Combs GF Jr, Trumbull BW, Slate EH, Chalker DK, Chow J, Davis LS, Glover RA, Graham GF, Gross EG, Krongrad A, Lesher JL Jr, Park HK, Sanders BB Jr, Smith CL, Taylor JR. Effects of selenium supplementation for cancer prevention in patients with carcinoma of the skin. A randomized controlled trial. Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Study Group. JAMA. 1996 Dec 25;276(24):1957-63.